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Child Development Theories

First Theorist

1. Name your theorist.

Jean Piaget (Development Theory)

2. Summarise the key ideas of the theory.

Piaget was the most prominent theorists, who developed the child development theory. According to this theory, the theorist has explained that children get actively involved in constructing knowledge gradually as they explore their outer world.  The key idea of this theory is that development of the children take place through four different stages from birth to adulthood. Piaget’s theory has placed special emphasis on the personal, social and emotional development of the children (Meadows, 2017). The four stages that Piaget’s theory explains are the Sensori-Motor Stage (birth to two years of age), Pre-operational Stage (two to seven years of age), Concrete Operational (seven to eleven years) and Formal Operations (eleven years onwards).

3. Identify the domain/s of development that the theory is most relevant to.

The most important domain of development that Piaget’s theory has explained is the cognitive development of children. Through the various stages of development, the theory explains the cognitive development of the children, under which the various psychological structures emerge in the form of organised units and patterns of thinking that influence the way in which children interpret the information (Piaget, 2018). The cognitive development is informed through the theory by different developmental stages and how these levels are associated with development of reasoning skills. Piaget believed that the process of the children is different from the adults and their development take place due to their gradual process of maturation of the brain, nervous system and active exploration of the outer environment. Therefore, the domain of cognitive development underpins two main principles- (1) child is an active learner and (2) child must be provided with opportunity to explore, sense, discover and experiment their world (Nolan, & Raban, 2015). 

4. Explain how the domains identified in question two (2) can impact on other domains of development.

Piaget’s theory explains that cognitive development of the child is also associated with other domains, such as motor/physical development, social/emotional development and communication/language development (Barrouillet, 2015). The different stage of development informs that child’s cognitive functioning develops since birth, through which child interpret different information and acquire new ways of understanding of their world. In the senori-Motor stage, children start using their motor skills to explore their world that helps in their motor/physical development. In the pre-operational stage, children accomplish semantic functions; develop egocentrism, decentring, animism, seriation and conservation, which influence their communication/language development (Bjorklund & Causey, 2017). 

5. Outline how the theory is demonstrated in pedagogical practices in the role as an educator. That is, what does the theory ‘look like’ in the workplace? What would educators be doing? What sorts of experiences would they be providing?

One of the most significant aspects of the Piaget’s theory is that it recognises that even though every child goes through the same sequences or the process of development, but they develop cognitive and other abilities at different rates (Meadows, 2017). Therefore, the teachers in the classroom are required to place special effort in identifying the different capabilities of the children and assessment of the children should also be based on the individual progress made by every child. The theory’s ‘look alike’ in the class room would be when the teachers would focus on identifying the individual developmental capabilities of the children. 

Piaget had also informed that children need time to mature and develop their knowledge and ‘hurrying’ children in formal education can cause damage to them. Educators will use the method of observation of children in their routine activities, which will help in interpreting the child’s development and their individual difference. Therefore, the educators would be guiding the students, instead of pushing information on them, educators will sit and listen passively and will also encourage students to explore and experience the world around them (Bjorklund & Causey, 2017). Such educators would be providing the learning experience to the children.

Second Theorist

1. Name your theorist 

Erik Erickson

2. Summarise the key ideas of the theory.

The key idea of the theorists is to inform that personality development of the individual takes place through predetermined eight stages of psychosocial development. These eight stages include, 

  • Stage 1 - Trust vs. Mistrust

  • Stage 2 - Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt

  • Stage 3 - Initiative vs. Guilt

  • Stage 4 - Industry vs. Inferiority

  • Stage 5 - Identity vs. Confusion

  • Stage 6 - Intimacy vs. Isolation

  • Stage 7 - Generativity vs. Stagnation

  • Stage 8 - Integrity vs. Despair

This theory informed that development of the individual significantly takes place through out the life span by various social experiences.  Theorists also believed that social interactions and social relationships are important for the psychosocial development of individuals. Every stage described by the theorists paves the way for the next developmental stage. In every stage individual face conflict that serve as the turning point for their development. The conflict that arise, ethier helps in the psychosocial development of the individual or fails to develop the quality.

3. Identify the domain/s of development that the theory is most relevant to.

The main domains of development that theory is most relevant to social/emotional domain. Social/ emotional domain is mainly associated with the development of the social skills and emotional competency among the individuals. Social and emotional domain is also associated with the development of self and relationship with others (Aronoff & Wilson, 2014). For example, when the child is born, he or she is uncertain about the surroundings and the world, therefore, they dependent on their immediate caregivers for the consistency of care and support. This is the first step of developing a social and emotional connection. If the care that infant receive is reliable, consistent and reliable then infant will develop the sense of trust otherwise the sense of mistrust and anxiety that would affect their social and emotional health during different stages of development. This process remains similar to other stages as well, if the individual receives the appropriate social and emotional support, they are likely to grow effectively (Robinson, 2013).

4. Explain how the domains identified in question two (2) can impact on other domains of development.

Social and emotional domain explains about the child’s feeling towards self and others Through different stages as explained by Erickson, children develop their social skills and emotional competency that help them to cope with life stressors. Therefore, social and emotional domains can also impact the other developmental domains, which may include cognitive or physical domains. For example, the positive relationship development with adults in the early life years, help children to gain skills that help them to adjust in the process of formal schooling, as through social and emotional support they learn to understand others and learn from attachment and ties (Barblett & Maloney, (2010). The transition from one stage to another stage requires a significant social an emotional skills that help children to learn language develop cognitive strength and attain full functionality. 

5. Outline how the theory is demonstrated in pedagogical practices in the role as an educator. That is, what does the theory ‘look like’ in the workplace? What would educators be doing? What sorts of experiences would they be providing?

Interactions, relationships and participation are central to the learning and development of the children according to this theory. Therefore, in the pedagogical practice the theory is translated when the scaffolds by the teachers and other children support child’s learning. The main idea behind the theory is to understand that what child can do independently and what they can do with the help of others. Therefore, theory look alike in the workplace would be providing the different learning opportunities to the children and enhancing their social interactions. Educator would be required to prepare developmentally appropriate curriculum and therefore, educators would be required to plan the activities, not those that children are capable of doing on their own, but those which they can learn with support of others, as it will help them to develop social and emotional competence. The educators would be able to provide experience of cooperation-based learning (Clapper, 2015). 


Aronoff, J., & Wilson, J. P. (2014). Personality in the social process. Psychology Press.

Barblett, L., & Maloney, C. (2010). Complexities of assessing social and emotional competence and wellbeing in young children. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 35(2), 13-18.

Barrouillet, P. (2015). Theories of cognitive development: From Piaget to today. Developmental Review, 38, p, 1-12.

Bjorklund, D. F., & Causey, K. B. (2017). Children's thinking: Cognitive development and individual differences. US: Sage. 

Clapper, T. C. (2015). Cooperative-based learning and the zone of proximal development. Simulation & Gaming, 46(2), 148-158.

Meadows, S. (2017). Developing thinking: approaches to children's cognitive development. New York: Routledge.

Nolan, A., &Raban, B. (2015). Theories into practice: Understanding and rethinking our work with young children and the EYLF. Teaching Solutions.

Piaget, J. (2018). Jean Piaget: An Enduring Legacy. Learning Theories for Early Years Practice, 52.

Robinson, O. (2013). Development through adulthood: An integrative sourcebook. Palgrave Macmillan.


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